As a child growing up in Benton Harbor, Michigan, Ernie Hudson wrote short stories, poems and songs, always thinking that his words might one day come to life on stage. After a short stint in the Marine Corps, he moved to Detroit where he became the resident playwright at Concept East, the oldest black theatre in the country. In addition, he enrolled at Wayne State University to further develop his writing and acting skills and found time to establish the Actors’ Emsemble Theatre, where he and other talented young black writers directed and appeared in their own works. After graduating with a B.A. from Wayne State, he was rewarded a full scholarship to the M.F.A. program at the prestigious Yale School of Drama.
While performing with the school’s repertory company, he was asked to appear in the Los Angeles production of Lonne Elder III‘s musical “Daddy Goodness,” which led to his meeting Gordon Parks, who gave Hudson the costarring role in his first feature film, Leadbelly (1976). Unfortunately, all that followed “Leadbelly” was a year of “bit parts and some harsh lessons about Hollywood,” which led Hudson to enroll in another academic program at the University of Minnesota that would lead to a Ph.D. Through his experience, he learned another vital lesson: “There are those who spend their lives studying it and those who spend their lives doing it.” Hudson definitely wanted to be in the second group.